Stowe-Area Hiking: Sterling Pond via Long Trail
- Skill Level: Moderate
- View Trail Map
- Type: Half-day hike
- Distance: 2.0 – 3.0 miles
- Time: 2 – 3 hours
- Climb: 880’
- Trailhead Location: 6443 Mountain Rd, Stowe, VT 05672. From the historic village, take Route 108 north about 9.7 miles to the top of Smugglers’ Notch and park on the left in the scenic parking area. The trail starts across the road, and is a great hike on a well-maintained trail.
About the Hike
The Sterling Pond Trail is one of the most popular hikes in Smugglers’ Notch, providing access to a unique mountain-top pond that is perfect for swimming, fishing (permit required), and observing wildlife. The hike to Sterling Pond is only about one mile each way, and connects to a variety of additional trails to rewarding vistas looking out over the mountains.
The hike itself starts out as a relatively steep climb up well-positioned rock steps and, though there are some flat parts, is sure to give your legs work-out. The majority of the hike is under the cover of trees, but as you make it further up the trail, you will start to see views in the distance through the thick tree cover. After about a mile, you will reach the intersection of the Long Trail and a sign directly in front of you will direct you to beautiful Sterling Pond, 0.1 miles to the left.. Volunteers from the Green Mountain Club may be on-site and can inform you about the area, wildlife, and native plant-life. Stay on designated trails and not wander off-trail, as much of the high-elevation vegetation is very fragile.
The vast majority of hikers that reach the Sterling Pond simply turn back and begin their descent. There are however many incredible view-points that are just a short-hike from the pond, most of which have very little elevation gain. Continue along the Long Trail North, which will take you to the top of the Madonna Chairlift at Smugglers’ Notch Resort with spectacular mountain views looking north towards Canada. Alternatively, reverse course and take the Long Trail South (past the Sterling Pond Trail intersection) to reach the top of the Sensation Chairlift on Spruce Peak, a unique view of the taller Mount Mansfield to the right and the Worcester mountain range in the distance.
For those looking for more tranquility or a peaceful fishing spot, follow the loop around the Sterling Pond (1.4 miles). This is a narrow wooded trail that offers a variety of picturesque pond views and a better chance at seeing wildlife. While the walk is relatively easy with some hills mixed with flats, the rooty trail is often wet and can be slippery. After looping the pond, make your way back to the intersection of the Long Trail and Sterling Pond Trail and begin your descent down to the parking area.